There were tears for all the teams involved on Friday – tears of joy for the Netherlands and Uruguay, and of despair for Brazil and Ghana, as the first two quarter-finals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ served up almost unbearable drama and tension. The Dutch beat five-time world champions Brazil 2-1, while Uruguay needed penalties to overcome brave Ghana.
A continent cheered for the Black Stars as they bid to become the first African team ever to make the FIFA World Cup semi-finals. It was looking good for Ghana at Soccer City in Johannesburg when Sully Muntari blasted his side in front from fully 35 yards in first-half stoppage time. However, Diego Forlan levelled for Uruguay early in the second half, and the South Americans could easily have gone on to win in normal time.
Ghana boss Milovan Rajevac’s men more than matched the Uruguayans in extra time, though, taking the fight to their skilful opponents and coming within inches of winning it in the dying seconds, only for Asamoah Gyan’s penalty to hit the bar and fly over. Then, dramatically, the African Brazilians – a nickname earned by Ghana in the 1990s for their ebullient attacking flair – were beaten in the shoot-out by the composed Celeste penalty-takers.
The first clash of the day in Port Elizabeth was shorter on drama but equally long on excitement, as the Netherlands and Brazil squared off for the fourth time at the FIFA World Cup. The Europeans had only won one of those past meetings, back in 1974, but they doubled that tally and booked a fourth semi-finals appearance, keeping alive their hopes of emulating the legendary Cruyff-inspired team of the 1970s and progressing to the Final.
As for the Brazilians, Felipe Melo would be delighted to erase the memory of a horror second half. After missing the Round of 16 tie with suspension, the 27-year-old returned to the starting line-up and laid on Robinho’s tenth-minute opener with a slide-rule pass. But with his side in command, he unluckily put through his own goal on 53 minutes to spark a Dutch renaissance. Then, just five minutes after Wesley Sneijder had handed the Oranje a 68th-minute lead, Melo was shown a red card for kicking out at Arjen Robben. A Seleção were headed for the exit, and must now wait four long years before launching their quest for a sixth triumph on home soil.